Li Yiwen

All that is solid melts into air ?

As early as the 19th century, Carl Marx solemnly declared in The Communist Manifesto that "all that is solid melts into air". Undoubtedly, this declaration has been regarded as one of most classic predictions related to modernity, and has been proved by history and contemporary life. However, this is not all the problems for Li Yiwen-he pays more attention to that in what dimension and depth have our history and real life stepped into, in other words, to what extent are they disintegrated and shattered? Are they able to be pieced together or even systematically and completely rebuilt according to a kind of specific logic relation? What role do the individuals play in this long process? For individuals, whether and to what extent can they be understood? Is there the so-called "truth" at all? These questions puzzled artists' life and art creating for a long time, so he queried this unanswerable conclusion when he named this series of works. In the meantime, in order to clarify and answer these pendent questions like the Damocles Sword, he tried to build a visual pedigree about human history based on iconology with the methodology of historical archaeology. At present, he is at the first stage of this series of creating, extracting objects appeared in historical events and real life from the unctional specific context through comprehensive and careful classification of creation materials and relevant literature to serve as the essential material element for visual display and tries to realize the effect of "extracting eternity from transience" as Baudelaire said.

In the process of painting, Li Yiwen specially adopts the most traditional painting technique of Tempera with every picture going through covering and dyeing layer upon layer and repeated peculiar handling. Colors from different layers mutually permeate and mix, and form countless fissures densely covered with porcelain "cracks" as if undergoing years of exposure, which is similar to the mottled effect of old films. Right now, those battleplane of different countries in time of war, high tone loudspeakers used for ideological propaganda and political mobilization, lonely standing bus stops, towering monuments symbolizing power and will, two atom bombs thrown to Hiroshima and quickening the ending of World War II, closed circuit monitors spread in all spaces and used for observation, the mahjong fashionable all over China, portable shoot cameras, even variable clouds ...appearing before our eyes seem to be the civilization relics that have been placed in an old museum for a long long time. The artist sticks a layer of faint aura with emulation, the "past tense" and "historical sensibility" on vision and emotion to the surface of the things he depicts, thereby simulating or forging a kind of "visual relique" as the relic and specimen of culture. Until now, he has gradually built a "visual museum about history andand human life (that has become or is becoming the history itself)" with time as axis according to detailed classification and logic arrangement. In these numerous historical sites, the audience are able to enter a stimulant historical mental mode, recall and survey these material elements or carriers necessary for building the human history again in a whole meaning in an indistinct sense of alienation. Now, we can say that artist's technique of expression , the visual representation of works and the concept of creating have unified organically.

But this is only the first step for the creating of this series - then the artist also has greater inclination (or ambition). As a structure or a text, the history exists and lasts through different ways of writings. Any way of writings necessarily takes with the "author's" own standpoint and value judgment, so we can say that "all histories are subjective" (said by Emerson), and that any text about "histories" is just one of the numerous aspects. Moreover, once breaking away from specific related contexts, any understanding (about things, phenomena and ideas) will become impossible. This also determines that the relation between the "truth" (eternal goal pursued by human forever) and the history is always relative but not absolute-this does not mean that we can not gain the truth about the history, but means that this kind of truth is always limited, and can only be confirmed and understood in specific cognitive paradigms and structures. Based on such historical views, the artist decides to build a "Li Yiwen style" historical system by painting through remodeling significant historical events and phenomena. Yet we must see that this construction is not purely copying and restoring existing historical events and scenes (I would rather regard him as an agnostic with skepticism than materialists), but reintegrating all sorts of tremendous amount of material fragments as subjects of historical writings with personal experience and perspective, rebuilding many new specific contexts full of intense personal style and ideational direction in a fabular way with "reality" and "fiction" interlaced-no matter these contexts are absurd, tragic, hopeless and sad, or pitying, sentimental even black humors-they provide a new possibility full of intense individual characteristics for the audience to "understand" histories while "observing" when he independently expressing the individual historical outlooks.

For Li Yiwen, "human" (including himself) is actually a strange kind of existence, who are not only eternally entangled with yesterday, today and tomorrow, but also constantly try to restore a real outline about history and life. While unfortunately, only after we have walked every node of the big net, we are able to catch a glimpse of that visible and empty figure, nevertheless it is impossible in time and experience. For this reason, the long and bitter process is undoubtedly added with the tragic color of Sisyphus. Though the process is bitter, we still enjoy it, endlessly, and this maybe the humanity. As Machiavelli said: "since humanity is unchangeable and all the same in various regions, then history-records of human's past activities can help people predict the future and compare with the reality." Therefore, (using Raymond Aron's expression approach) as a living person, Li Yiwen rebuilds a life about the "dead" for all living people-in this life, we may find another state of truth.




Born in Luoyang, He Nan Province, China


Graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, majored in fresco, and received a bachelor's degree, Beijing, China


Graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, majored in fresco, and received a master's degree, Beijing, China

Selected Solo Exhibitions


"Twinkling", Times Art Museum, Beijing, China

Selected Group Exhibitions


'The Sixth Chengdu Biennale'  New International Convention & Exposition Center Chengdu, China

'Time Line',An Exhibition of Contemporary Art(Session 1)  Your Ment Art, Nanning, China

'Beyond Style',VA Space, Beijing, China

'Displacement: Narratives of FourYoung Chinese Artists', Space CAN, Beijing, China

‘Painting Lesson |||:Elementary and Extreme Structure',Yang Gallery, Beijing, China

‘2013 Future Master',Wenxuan Art Museum, Chengdu, China

‘The Visual Rhetoric of the Young Generatio',Suzhou Jinji Lake Art Museum, Suzhou, China


‘Also World'T Art Center, Beijing, China


‘The shape of mind'Hanmo Art Gallery, Beijing, China

‘A Play 'Jingyi Art Gallery, Beijing, China

‘Fresh Eyes2011--Framework growing inside out'He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China

‘Reality extends'Rui Art Gallery, Shanghai, China


‘You said the longest wander is brushing past one after the other in this city 'Young Artist Joint Exhibition, Art Museum of Nantong, Nantong, China


Huangjueping International Art Festival of New Year, ‘The generation of singleton 'Young Artist Invitation Exhibition, Contemporary Art Museum of Huangjueping, Chongqing, China


Chinese Contemporary Art Documentary Exhibition in Beijing, Wall Arts Gallery and Gehua Arts Gallery, Beijing, China


Chuanliubuxi (constant flow) Theme Exhibition in the Central Academy of Fine Arts Gallery, Beijing, China

2nd session of today's China Art Exhibition in Beijing, Art Museum of China, Beijing, China

B52 2nd Show in Beijing C5 Art Center, Beijing, China


‘Confucius, I asked,' Light of the Acadamy Exhibition in Beijing. Central Academy of Fine Arts Gallery, Beijing, China

B52 Ten Exhibition in 2006 at Beijing C5 Art Center, Beijing, China